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Salty Secrets: How Processed Foods Impact Your Skin
by Emily Linehan on July 10, 2023
As an esthetician, I have clients frequently asking me how to manage their acne-prone skin, and often, our conversations turn toward diet. Over the years we've chatted a lot about how the food we eat can affect our skin. We've seen how usual suspects like dairy, soy, peanuts/peanut butter, and even protein powders can stir up acne trouble. But let's get real about a huge part of our diets, the all-too-easy grab-and-go processed foods.
While they're super convenient (we've all been there), these sneaky snacks and meals can wreak havoc on our skin. In this post, we'll get into why these quick bites might be messing with your skin and share some doable tips to cut back on them.
Processed Foods and Your Skin
The cornerstone of processed foods is their high sodium or salt content. The role of salt in these foods is multi-dimensional; it serves as a preservative, enhancing their shelf life and maintaining flavor. However, this same salt can spell trouble for your skin, irritating your pores, inducing inflammation, and leading to those unwelcome breakouts.
Aside from sodium, processed items are often high-glycemic index foods, which cause a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. The spike in insulin can lead to an increase in androgen hormones, sebum production, and skin cell proliferation, which all combine to cause acne.
Something else to consider is that processed foods generally have lower nutrient value than whole, fresh foods. They are often deficient in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that are essential for maintaining healthy skin.
Click here to see some of my favorite skin-nourishing foods.
Tips for Minimizing Processed Foods
Frozen entrees, canned foods, cured meats, salty snacks, instant noodles, sports drinks, sodas, high sodium condiments, and iodized or seasoning salt are just a few examples of processed foods. They're often our go-to's when we're in a rush or simply want a comforting snack, but your skin might be paying the price for this convenience.
While it may sound overwhelming to eliminate all processed foods from your diet, the key is to eliminate foods with the highest salt content and minimize the best you can.
Here are some handy tips on how to avoid acne-triggering processed foods and incorporate healthier alternatives into your diet:
- Opt for Low Sodium: Many processed foods these days offer a lower sodium option. So if you do opt for something processed, like canned foods, look for the lower sodium options.
- Perimeter Shopping: During your grocery run, stick to the perimeter of the store. This is where fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats typically reside, while the majority of processed foods are in the center aisles.
- Embrace Homemade: One of the best ways to ensure your meals are low in sodium and skin-friendly is to cook at home. This allows you complete control over your ingredients. For example, if you love pizza, try making it with fresh, low-sodium ingredients instead of reaching for a frozen variation.
- Meal Planning: One of the primary appeals of processed foods is their convenience. To counter this, try meal planning. Preparing and planning your meals for the week can save time and reduce the temptation of easy, processed options.
- Mindful Dining: When dining out, be selective. Opt for sauces and dressings on the side, request your food to be prepared without extra salt or butter, and lean towards grilled, baked, or roasted options.
So, what's the takeaway? Moderation and balance are key. If eliminating processed foods entirely isn't feasible, aim to incorporate more whole, unprocessed foods into your diet. Lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats should take center stage.
It's important to remember that while the link between diet and acne is compelling, it is just one piece of the complex acne puzzle. Hormonal fluctuations, genetics, stress, environmental factors, and skin care practices all contribute to acne. The food we eat influences our skin health, but it's not the sole determinant, so I highly encourage you to learn more about these other factors in my free 3 part series, Understanding Acne.
All that being said, while there is a lot that can impact your skin, you are not alone in this journey. I’m here to guide and support you on your path to healthier, radiant skin. So if you’re new here, be sure to complete my free online skincare consultation so I can provide personalized advice based on your individual needs!